Investing in radiotherapy for cancer patients worldwide

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Access to radiotherapy for all of the world’s cancer patients who could benefit from the treatment—an estimated 12 million people by 2035—is achievable with an investment of as little as $97 billion, according to a new report by the Lancet Oncology Commission. Rifat Atun, professor of global health systems at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, led the commission, which called the price tag cost-effective and very low compared to the high price of many new cancer drugs. The authors also estimated the potential benefits of treating so many people: 27 million life years saved, and economic benefits of up to $365 billion over 20 years through health care savings and higher productivity.

The report was published online September 26, 2015 in The Lancet Oncology.

Most cancer patients, including those with breast, lung, prostate, head and neck, and cervical cancers, require radiation at some point; however, only 40-60% have access to the treatment. In some African countries, access to radiotherapy is virtually nonexistent.

“There is a widespread misconception that the costs of providing radiotherapy put it beyond the reach of all but the richest countries. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Atun said in a Lancet press release.